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Arab gas reserves increase

Published by Daily Star on 2003-11-15

BEIRUT: Arab gas reserves increased by nearly eight trillion cubic meters over the last six years despite a sharp increase in production because of higher domestic consumption and growing exports to foreign markets, the Emirates News Agency reported Friday.
It quoted the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (Oapec) as saying that the United Arab Emirate's natural gas wealth remained almost unchanged at six trillion cubic meters while Qatar accounted for the bulk of the increase, with its gas resources jumping to 14.6 trillion cubic meters at the end of last year from 8.5 trillion cubic meters in 1997. The UAE has the world's fifth largest reserves of natural gas, after Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Another major increase came from Saudi Arabia, whose gas potential grew to around 6.2 trillion cubic meters from 5.39 trillion cubic meters in the same period, according to Oapec. Algeria's reserves, among the biggest in the world, also increased to 4.52 trillion cubic meters from 4.07 trillion cubic meters while Egypt's gas wealth rose to around 1.55 trillion cubic meters from 815 billion cubic meters.
Many experts say that natural gas is emerging as a new global energy business. Writing in the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs, a magazine published by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Daniel Yergin and Michael Stoppard of Cambridge Energy Research Associates said that this new business "will have a far-reaching impact on the world economy, bringing new opportunities and risks, new interdependencies and geopolitical alignments."
Other energy writers, such as Neil Ford of Middle East magazine, note that Arab gas producers are increasingly adopting a coordinated strategy of cooperation in sales, rather than merely competing with one another,
The Kuwaiti-based Oapec, which groups 10 key Arab oil and gas producers, put the total Arab natural gas reserves at 40.7 trillion cubic meters at the end of last year compared with nearly 32.4 trillion cubic meters at the end of 1997. The increase boosted their ratio to nearly 25.4 per cent of the world's total gas resources of around 159.9 trillion cubic meters at the end of last year from 21.5 per cent of the global gas reserves of nearly 150.2 trillion cubic meters at the end of 1997. The increase occurred despite a sharp growth in Arab gas production to meet local and external demand, with the total output soaring to nearly 427.6 billion cubic meters last year from around 364 billion cubic meters in 1997. Algeria topped the list of Arab gas producers, with an output of around 151 billion cubic meters last year while the UAE ranked second, with nearly 55 billion cubic meters.
Qatar's gas production stood at 45.5 billion cubic meters but output is set to sharply increase in the near future as the Gulf country is pushing ahead with mega projects to tap its mammoth North gas field, the largest single gas reservoir in the world. Despite the increase in its reserves, Saudi Arabia's gas output declined to around 54 billion cubic meters from 77 billion cubic meters. But the kingdom is on the verge of entering a turning point in its gas industry as international firms have been invited to tap its resources in multi-billion-dollar deals, the first of which has already been struck with a Shell-led consortium.
The figures showed the UAE ranked fifth in the world in terms of gas reserves while Saudi Arabia was fourth and Qatar third at the end of last year. Iran ranked second with around 23 trillion cubic meters while Russia controlled around 48 trillion. (with reports from the Emirates News Agency)

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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